ZIP-drive mini-HOWTO: Using the ZIP drive

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If you have built in all the required components, the kernel should recognise your adapter and drive at boot time. If you are using a loadable module for your driver, the following discussion applies once that module is loaded.

For the most part, the SCSI and parallel versions of the drive behave identically, except that the parallel version is somewhat slower.

4.1 Identifying the drive at boot time

When your system boots it should display several pieces of information about your adapter, your drive and the disk in the drive. If you do not have a disk in the drive, some of this information will be missing and will only appear when you insert a disk and then touch the drive (make some attempt to access it). Beginning users are advised to boot their system with a disk in the drive – things are less confusing that way !

Exactly where these messages will appear depends on how your system is configured. Often they will be displayed to your system console, but they may be diverted into a log file such as /var/adm/messages. Usually, you can retrieve the last couple of screens of kernel messages with the dmesg command, if you can’t find them anywhere else.

If you need to get someone to help you with anything, a copy of this log information is critical. Try to send as many of the relevant log messages as you can along with any bug report.

Here is a sample of what the kernel’s log messages should look like:


scsi0 : PPA driver version 0.26 using 8-bit mode on port 0x378.
scsi : 1 host.
  Vendor: IOMEGA    Model: ZIP 100           Rev: N*32
  Type:   Direct-Access                      ANSI SCSI revision: 02
Detected scsi disk sda at scsi0, channel 0, id 6, lun 0
scsi : detected 1 SCSI disk total.
SCSI device sda: hdwr sector= 512 bytes. Sectors= 196608 [96 MB] [0.1 GB]
  sda: Write Protect is off
Partition check:
  sda: sda1

This output came from a 1.3.87 system with a parallel ZIP drive. The exact output will vary depending on your host adapter and whether you have any other SCSI devices in your system.

The first line displays the initialisation message from the low-level driver for the host adapter, in this case PPA. Following that comes the drive identification information returned by each device found on the SCSI bus. Line 5 reports the device name assigned to the drive, in this case /dev/sda. And the last line hows the result of the partition check of the disk in the drive. This one has one partition,/dev/sda1. These reports come from different modules in the kernel, if you have more than one SCSI adapter, or several disks, each section will contain more information.

If you are using a fresh disk, direct from Iomega, the partition check should show one partition, /dev/sda4. If you have other SCSI devices you will understand that the ZIP drive could appear on some other device name like /dev/sdb – so check these messages.

If these lines do not appear, then something is misconfigured in your hardware or in the kernel. Check everything carefully before sending mail.

If the scsi0: line does not appear, then you have not configured your host adapter and its driver correctly. Some drivers will give you a hint about what is wrong. If your drive is not detected, you probably have a cable problem. If a drive name is not assigned, you probably forgot to include SCSI disk support when you built the kernel.

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Check the README files in drivers/scsi and the SCSI HOWTO for other debugging hints.

4.2 Fdisk, mke2fs, mount, etc.

Once you know the drive name for your ZIP drive, you are set. You can manipulate the drive with the normal Linux disk management commands. fdisk (or perhaps cfdisk) is used to manipulate the partition tables on the disk. mke2fs can be used to format a partition with the ext2 filesystem – the one most commonly used in Linux. mount is used to connect a formatted partition into your directory hierarchy.

You should study the manual pages for these tools if you are not familiar with them. Be warned that there are now several quite different versions of the fdisk program – be careful.

I’ll describe two common scenarios.

An existing DOS formatted disk

If you have a ZIP disk with a DOS file structure that was originally created by Iomega’s tools, the partition scan should say that the disk has one partition, /dev/sda4.

You should make a place to mount the disk, lets say /zip, and then mount it as an MS-DOS filesystem:


mkdir /zip
mount -t msdos /dev/sda4 /zip

Now, the files on the disk should appear in /zip. While the disk is mounted, you will not be able to remove it. When you are finished with the disk you can umount it to release it and detach it from your directory hierarchy.


umount /zip

Once you’ve made the /zip mount point – you don’t need to do it again, so you could come back later and mount something else there.

Re-format as a native Linux disk

If you want to erase a ZIP disk and make a Linux native file system on it. you should use fdisk on the entire disk:


fdisk /dev/sda

and delete any existing partitions (with the d command). Then create a new partition with the n command, make it primary partition number 1, use w to write the partition table to disk, and quit with q.

Format the partition


mke2fs /dev/sda1

(The 1 is the number that you gave this partition in fdisk). Now you can mount the disk:


mount -t ext2 /dev/sda1 /zip

(re-using that mount point we created before).

The ZIP Tools disk

There is some extra work to be done if you want to use the disk that comes with the ZIP drive. As shipped, the software controlled write protection is enabled. Most people have unlocked the disk under DOS before ever trying to use it with Linux. Linux cannot access a locked disk, and it must be unlocked with Iomega’s tools.

A native Linux program to manage the write protection feature, among other things, is expected to be available soon.

4.3 Ejecting a disk

You can only eject a disk when it is dismounted. Currently, there is no Linux command to eject the disk, so you must press the button on the front of the drive to eject the disk.

Linux ensures that all data have been written to the disk before it is unlocked.

Watch for a new ZIP tools program for Linux which will support some of Iomega’s special features (including software controlled ejection and write protection) on both the SCSI and parallel versions of the drive.

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